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Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs

The dictionary definition of entrepreneur is “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.” Following this definition to its logical conclusion, every pre-modern woman who managed a household was an entrepreneur since the household, at least until the seventeenth—in some places until the eighteenth—century, was an economic enterprise. For the purposes of this article, however, we have limited this broad definition of entrepreneurship, concentrating on women who specialized in commerce, selling what they themselves produced or what others produced and, in later centuries, women who were actively involved in the money economy.

Shulamith Reich Elster

In the 1980s, when she served as headmaster of the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in suburban Washington, D.C., Shulamith Elster was often referred to as the dean of Jewish education.

Racheli Edelman

Racheli Edelman, a leading Hebrew publisher in her own right, is a scion of two of Israel’s most distinguished book and newspaper publishing families—Schocken and Persitz.

Eastern European Immigrants in the United States

Of all Jewish immigrants to the United States from 1886 to 1914, forty-four percent were women, far more than for other immigrants groups arriving during the heyday of mass immigration. The more than two million Jews from the Russian Empire, Romania, and Austria-Hungary who entered the United States in the years 1881 to 1924—when the American government imposed a restrictive quota system—came to stay. Only 7 percent chose to return to Europe, as opposed to about 30 percent of all immigrants. Jewish immigrants intended to raise American families. Ashkenazi (European) Jewish culture and American values as conveyed by social reformers as well as by advertising, and the economic realities of urban capitalist America, all influenced the position of women in immigrant Jewish society in America. Jewish immigrant women shared many of the attributes of immigrant women in general, but also displayed ethnic characteristics.

Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp

Impulsive, adventurous, and outspoken, Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp ran away from home when she was seventeen years old. Two years later, she joined destinies with western lawman, gambler, and entrepreneur Wyatt Earp. For forty-seven years, they roamed the West, mingling with well-known westerners on both sides of the law. Her name was rarely in print until her published memoir revealed an overlooked western folk female hero, long on daring, short on propriety, and, of all things, Jewish.

Colonial Entrepreneurs: A Quartet of Jewish Women

Esther Pinheiro, Esther Brown, Rachel Luis, and Simja De Torres were widows, each held property, each was at one time or another a merchant. Although all lived in New York City for a time, none were born there. Pinheiro died on the Island of Nevis, and the other three in New York. All four have been overlooked by history. They have been included here because written records survive documenting their activities.

Elaine Lustig Cohen

The related fields of typography and graphic design played a vital role in the advent of modernism in early twentieth-century Europe, with many vanguard groups—better known for painting, sculpture, architecture, and manifestos—using design to test the practical application of their new modes of artistic production. The European avant-garde, imported to the United States by a wave of emigrés in the late 1930s, was embraced by a new breed of designers, eager to build upon the principles of an incipient “international style.” Elaine Lustig Cohen, with her husband, Alvin Lustig, were among the most prominent graphic designers to adopt these advanced aesthetic concepts for use in the American market.

Hattie Carnegie

Hattie Carnegie led a fashion empire that set the pace of American fashion for nearly three decades.

Claire Bodner

Fashion designer, publicist, entrepreneur and sales representative, Claire Bodner, with virtually no formal training in fashion or business, developed and ran her own successful fashion business, Ducaire Timely Separates, in New York City from 1941 to 1949.

Adrien Arpel

Launching a business devoted to women’s skin care in 1959 with $400 she had earned from baby-sitting, Arpel is now president and CEO of Adrien Arpel, Inc., an enterprise with approximately 500 salons across the United States and Canada.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Entrepreneurs." (Viewed on October 1, 2014) <http://jwa.org/topics/entrepreneurs>.

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